Stand and Deliver!
From the Adelaide Show stand to delivery back at the Gold Coast factory, we stretch the limits of our tour testing…
by Richard Robertson
What simply seemed a good idea at the time ended up our longest touring test to date: some 2250 km over 6 days/5 nights, from Adelaide to the Gold Coast via Broken Hill. Not only was it an epic road test, it provided a real world living experience in what many consider to be the best production motorhome available in Australia: a Paradise.
Paradise believes its motorhomes are lighter, stronger and safer, and sights the following reasons (amongst others) as evidence:
- Rollover protection – courtesy of a purpose-built high tensile alloy rollover frame
- Walls – interlocking composite semi-monocoque construction
- Roof – one-piece composite domed roof for strength and light weight
- Cabinets – bonded and screwed to the walls using full-length pieces of alloy angle
- Drawers – have a 90 kg load rating with metal runners and locks tested to 20 Gs
- Door hinges – full length stainless steel piano hinges
- Acrylic mirrors – light and safe in an accident
It’s my experience that companies make all sorts of claims regarding their products. But having spent the best part of a week living in the Integrity SL the overwhelming impression it left us with was one of strength. Every part of it – particularly the interior – felt solid, almost to the point of over engineering. Mrs iMotorhome regularly drew my attention to how solid and secure the cupboard and wardrobe doors were; ditto the shelves. The bathroom door, she remarked one day, “Feels more substantial than the one in our bathroom,” while the flip-up dining table, “Is the easiest to use and most secure I can remember.” But more on all that later…
The subject of this review is the Integrity SL on the all-new and eagerly awaited Iveco cab-chassis. Well, almost. You see, although it sported the new cab and interior, the test vehicle actually used the outgoing model’s engine and gearbox. What this vehicle is, in fact, is what they call a ‘conforming prototype’ in the automotive world. Motorhome manufacturers use them to build new body moulds and work out the associated engineering whilst awaiting the arrival of the all-new production vehicles, which in this case are slated for May delivery (fingers crossed).
The Integrity series is probably best described as Paradise Motor Homes’ entry level into the big time. It sits above the Free Time and Oasis Platinum series and is visually very similar inside and out to the more expensive Inspiration, Liberation and Independence series.
There are eight models in the Integrity range, starting with the 7.62 m (25 ft) Integrity Lite and culminating in the 7.92 (26 ft) Integrity Supreme, and all can be driven on a normal car licence. Of the eight the two entry-level models have no slide-out, while the next two up – including the Integrity SL – have a small bedroom slide-out. The top four models all feature a full-length slide-out that includes the bed and various combinations of the lounge and/or kitchen, depending on the floor plan.
Integrities are available on the new Iveco Daily 50C or Mercedes Sprinter 519 CDI, with drive-away pricing in Queensland ranging from $184,589 to $250,157. All models are 2-berth B-class motorhomes, although an over-cab bed that converts them to a 4-berth C-class is available across the range for $9500. Also, a 4X4 upgrade pack is available on the Sprinter-based models for $26,500.
An Integrity SL on the all-new Iveco Daily 50C has a base price of $193,296. The test vehicle also had the following options: front loading washing machine $1495; electric awning upgrade $1295; slide-out stainless steel barbecue $1395; external drop-down table $495; kitchen bench extension $895; external TV/DVD/HD $695, and an 80-channel UHF CB radio for $695. In total the options added $7165, bringing the price to $200,461. On-road costs added another $6932.75 (stamp duty at 3% accounted for $6015), taking it to the drive-away price of $207,393.75 in Queensland.
These prices are pushing into what I term the luxury end of the market, but like all products of quality the price is more than just a simple reflection of the sum of its component parts.
When the all-new Iveco Daily 50C finally arrives it’s likely to give Mercedes’ Sprinter a serious run for its money. It’s the result of a €500 million (A$729 M) investment by the Italian manufacturer and will lift the Daily to a new level.
In the Integrity SL the Iveco chassis represents a base-price saving of $7792 over the Sprinter, yet it will out-spec it in some major and desirable ways. For starters it will have an 11 kW power advantage (up 22 kW on the current Iveco), taking output for the 3.0 L turbo-diesel engine to 151 kW and a whopping 470 Nm. More importantly, it will have an 8-speed fully automatic transmission, consigning the current 6-speed automated manual to history. The all-new drivetrain not only promises improved performance, drivability and economy, it has an ratio advantage over the Sprinter’s 7-speed full auto. The pièce de résistance is factory airbag rear suspension, which although optional on the new Iveco will be standard across the Paradise range. The new Iveco retains its current rear-wheel drive setup and 3.5 tonne towing capacity, ensuring it will remain a favourite with those who want or need to take a trailer or toad along on their travels.
New model upgrades aside, Paradise does things differently with its Iveco Daily 50C cab-chassis, ordering the longer wheelbase from the next-model-up Daily 70C. This provides a smoother ride, while the chassis itself is derated from a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of 5200 kg to 4495 kg, to allow use on a standard car licence. The added reserve of strength and durability is a bonus because it means the chassis isn’t continuously operating at its design maximum when fully loaded.
Speaking of weights, the Integrity SL as tested had a tare weight of 3870 kg, providing a payload of 625 kg. With full fuel (100 L ) and full water (127 L) its wet weight was 4080 kg, allowing 415 kg for 2 occupants and their worldly possessions. While there are other motorhomes with larger load capacities, considering how solidly the Integrity SL is built these figures are quite respectable. For the record the test vehicle returned an average 15.51 L/100 km (18.21 mpg), although I was sitting at the 110 km/h limit most of the trip (115 indicated/110 actual by GPS). Normal touring driving would improve those figures substantially.
In the Driver’s Seat
The driving experience of this particular vehicle is largely irrelevant, given the whole mechanical set-up is about to change. It’s worth noting that with the ‘old’ engine and six-speed automated manual transmission performance was good and very similar to a Fiat Ducato. Cab noise at cruising speeds on coarse bitumen – most of the trip – was quite high and conversations often required elevated voice levels. The open nature of the interior, with its hard, flat surfaces probably accentuated this, while the side entry door moved/squeaked a bit in its mount (remember, this was a prototype). Given we were very light, with virtually no load aboard and little thought to packing things properly away, I’m sure the overall interior noise was higher than would have been normal.
The new cab interior looks and feels good, but for the money (and comfort) a leather-wrapped steering wheel would be nice. There are cup holders on the dash and bottle holders in the doors, so you never need go thirsty, while all controls, as they say, fall easily to hand. Visibility was good – the new windscreen is a few inches taller and the seat bases slightly lower – while the turning circle proved quite good despite the longer wheelbase. Body roll was minimal and braking was strong, making it an all-round comfortable and confidence inspiring package.
Only a driver’s airbag was fitted to the test vehicle (from what I could see) but a passenger air bag will be standard, while side airbags look like being offered by Iveco as an option. Anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic traction control (ETC) and electronic stability control (ESC) will all also be standard on the new Iveco.
There were two stand-out items; the first being the heated leather cab seats; highly comfortable suspension units with dial adjustment to suit your weight. At no time in our long driving days did either of us experience back ache or a numb you-know-what, while the high quality leather upholstery added a real feeling of luxury. Paradise uses its own ADR-approved swivel seat bases and both seats – yes, including the driver’s – could easily be turned around. The secret is the other stand-out item: A dash-mounted electric handbrake!
Owners of Iveco-based motorhomes have long bemoaned the conventional handbrake’s position – to the left of the driver’s seat – and in this new model, unbelievably, nothing changed. So Paradise took it upon themselves to develop a totally new solution: an electro-magnetic handbrake that does away with the in-cab lever. The new arrangement incorporates the existing handbrake mechanicals but uses a dash-mounted switch to engage and release it. The subject of much pre-production testing the new handbrake worked flawlessly during our test and quickly became second nature to use. It’s so good in fact it seems Iveco is keen to buy the kit from Paradise! In use it takes a few seconds to completely engage or release, which isn’t a problem, but my only concern is what happens if you accidentally activate it while driving. Some sort of over-speed cut out switch or just a physical guard around the switch, which is right by the steering wheel, is worth considering.
As mentioned, interlocking composite panels produce a body that is strong and rigid. Double glazed acrylic Seitz single-hopper windows are used all-round, but without the usual three detent opening positions. Instead, the windows can be opened to pretty much any degree you like and just pulled closed again, instead of having to push them further out to first release the locking mechanism as is usual. They do, however, still have the integrated insect screens/privacy blinds which are a bit fiddly and require a delicate touch. On a couple of occasions the wind closed the windows with a light ‘thud’, which took a while to figure out the first time it happened.
External storage is excellent. There are three lower-body dust-and-waterproof lockers and a mid-body locker that accesses internal storage on each side. On the driver’s side all three lower-body lockers are available for storage, with the centre one ideal for longer items. On the kerb side the front one is completely empty, the middle one houses 2 x 4 kg gas bottles but still has storage room alongside, while the rear is basically occupied by the 2 x 100 AH house batteries and associated electrics – all readily accessible. It's worth noting 2 x 150 W solar panels and a 30 amp regulator are standard and a great inclusion.
None of the lockers are particularly tall, so more bulky items will probably need to go in the locker under the bed, but overall there’s plenty or room for ‘travelling essentials’. The driver’s side mid-height locker accesses under-bed storage, which can also be reached from inside by lifting the bed. The corresponding kerb-side locker in this case housed the optional outdoor barbecue and TV and took up part of the lower wardrobe space inside, but wasn’t internally accessible.
The connections for mains, tank and grey water are neatly grouped together under the body at the back on the driver’s side, beneath the rear locker. The mains and tank water inlets have conventional male brass hose connections, while the grey outlet is a simple pipe the hose pushes over. I did have reservations about the latter as the hose didn’t feel too secure when pushed on, but it didn’t fall off or leak (more than a few drops) during three nights of use. All three connections open and close via sturdy swing handles, while the mains and fresh water connectors were the most sturdy and easiest to connect to I’ve used. Only their position – quite low at the back of the vehicle – gave me cause for concern lest they drag on a driveway or something, but in practice there were no issues during our test.
Another item worth noting is a wind-down leg to provide stability when the slide-out’s extended. A sturdy AL-KO unit, I have to admit to thinking it’s rather overkill given how little the bed-only slide-out protrudes, or how much weight it carries. And on the topic of the slide-out, it’s electrically operated from a switch above the entry door and via an actuator under the bed that’s easily reached if maintenance is required, and takes about 30 seconds or so to complete its travels. When extended it doesn’t protrude much and is quite high up, meaning you’re unlikely to find parking or camping situations where it can’t be extended.
The electric awning upgrade was perhaps the most desirable option fitted to the test vehicle and an absolute must-have. Outdoor lighting consists of two bright LED strips on the kerb side, with one directly above the door. That’s good in theory, but in practice I found the over-door light attracted insects instantly to the top of the door, making insect-free entry – even quickly – largely impossible. If the over-door light couldn’t easily be relocated then putting it on a separate switch would be a good idea to leave the rear light on for security at night. Also, it would be good to be able to dim the lights as they are very bright.
While a Paradise motorhome might slip past unnoticed on the highway, there’s no mistaking one if you look inside! Central to Paradise Motor Homes’ design philosophy is open plan living. Entry is via a door with security fly screen, while an electric step retracts automatically when the ignition is turned on. Once inside you’ll find the lounge/dinette to the left, the kitchen straight ahead, the east-west bed right next to the kitchen (to the right) and a full-width bathroom across the back. The fridge sits in a tall unit immediately to the right of the entry door and the whole wall between it and the bathroom is taken with floor-to-ceiling wardrobes and cupboards.
I mentioned earlier there is a distinctive Gold Coast feel to the interior of any Paradise motorhome, including the Integrity SL. What that translates to in practice is an open plan design ideal for warm weather touring and one that’s bright and airy without feeling at all claustrophobic. It’s quite different to a Euro-based design yet lacks nothing in terms of storage or usability by comparison. One of the key features that promotes this open and spacious feeling is the flat fronts of the overhead cupboards and their relatively shallow depth. Euro designs tend to have large, deep and rounded overhead cupboards to maximise storage, but they can feel like they're encroaching on you at head level. By comparison there are only vertical interior lines in the Integrity SL and the effect is noticeable and enjoyable.
The most obvious concern with the layout appears to be the bed, which when the slide-out is retracted blocks access to the bathroom and wardrobes. Of course Paradise has thought of this and the bed tilts up with literally one hand on strong gas struts to provide a perfectly acceptable aisle to the bathroom; one that also allows access to all the wardrobe doors.
The only real compromise with this open plan living concept is the lack of bedroom privacy. Apart from the bathroom there is nowhere out of view where you can get dressed, nor is their any way to screen the bedroom from visitor’s prying eyes, or at night so one person can stay up while the other retires. A resourceful owner could rig-up a curtain of some sort, but it would be good to see the factory come up with a workable privacy solution.
The lounge area of the Integrity SL is roomy and practical. Apart from both cab seats swivelling there’s a single forward-facing automotive style seat that’s recline and reach adjustable, just to the left of the entry stairs. It faces the passenger’s cab seat when it’s swivelled, while across the aisle is a two seat sofa between the kitchen and driver’s seat. You could comfortably seat five people up front for drinks, while another one or two could sit on the edge of the bed. And unlike many motorhome sofas with their upright backs and hard cushions, this one is a beauty: deep, soft and comfortable.
Between the single seat and swivelled passenger seat is the table, which during the day folds neatly out of the way against the wall but leaves a decent shelf on top that’s actually very handy in day-to-day life. When required you simply lift the table end from floor level and it hinges up and out, locking firmly into place on two metal arms. Not only is it as solid as all get-out, it's also cantilevered so there's no annoying leg under the end to kick or trip over. Once the table’s in position the shelf area becomes a return along the wall to the left of the person sitting in the single forward facing seat. At meal times it's incredibly useful for keeping things like condiments, glasses and bottles off the main dining table and out of harm’s way. Mrs iMotorhome decided it's the most sturdy and user friendly dining table she's used and I have to admit I can't readily think of others to challenge it. It's certainly so far ahead of removable tables with multi-adjustable mounts and poles in terms of ease of use and security in position as to feel everything else should be consigned to a dolls house. Incidentally, at lunch stops I often ate while sitting on the sofa, which still gave easy table access and avoided the need to swivel the passenger seat (even though it was easy).
If I was nitpicking – it’s my job – I’d like the single forward-facing seat to be slightly higher in relation to the table (or the table slightly lower) and an inch or two to the left so it's directly in line with the swivelled passenger seat. This latter consideration would give the person sitting there a bit more table space to the right of their right-hand, not only enhancing the dining experience but making it an ideal workstation for someone with a laptop and a mouse. Someone like me for instance…
The over-cab area was neatly, if rather plainly, finished to provide quite deep-but-open storage areas above the cab seats, plus a surprisingly useful across-cab shelf. There was a secondary, very thin shelf between the top of the sun visors and the full-width shelf and it was where the optional UHF CB radio was housed; a super-compact 80-channel GME TX3345 with all controls (inc the channel display) in the microphone. The body was hidden out of view and to use it I just reached into the thin shelf and pulled out the microphone, which dangled down trucker-style in front of me. Or it would have if I had A: Discovered it before the second last day and B: Remembered it was there, once discovered!
There were a pair of slender, flexible chrome reading lights above the passenger’s and driver’s seats that had two positions; one providing a bright white reading light and the other a dark blue mood/nightlight. However, there was no reading light for the single seat occupant. On the subject of lights those in the Integrity SL were literally brilliant. I think I counted nine in the main ceiling, each with three LEDs, plus when you turned on the rangehood light there was a recessed LED strip running the length of the kitchen’s overhead cupboards. If anything the lights were a little too brilliant and although they could be zoned (kitchen, lounge, bedroom) they couldn’t be dimmed, which I think is an oversight. Speaking of oversights, although there was a generally plentiful supply of double 240-volt mains power points throughout the living area there were no USB charging outlets, or 12-volt sockets apart from the two in the cab. Also, there were no bedside power points even though there were the same reading lights as the cab, so there was power in the slide-out. Just sayin’….
Because this was a brand-new vehicle that had just made its debut at the Adelaide Caravan and Camping Show there were restrictions on how we could use it. Specifically and quite understandably we were unable to use the cooker or barbecue to prevent discolouration. So we took along a $20 single burner gas table-top stove; the type that uses a disposable butane canister you buy in a pack of four from Big W for about $5. Fortunately the weather was hot and we ate cereal for breakfast and a lot of salads, but we were allowed to use the microwave, which proved useful at dinner time as we stayed in caravan parks all the way across.
As stated the main kitchen unit sits along the driver’s-side wall opposite the entry door, between the bed and sofa. It’s well-equipped but there isn’t a lot of bench space as standard, although the cooker is recessed and has a flush-fitting benchtop lid that’s invaluable when its not being used. You can transform the kitchen by ordering the lift-up-and-over bench extension that covers the two seat sofa and effectively doubles work space. It's another must-have option and stores neatly away between the sofa back and wall.
Appliances in the main unit comprise a cooker with three gas rings and one electric element, with a gas grill and electric oven with turntable below. There’s also a stainless steel rangehood, stainless steel single-bowl sink with drainer, and a substantial chrome flick-mixer tap with selectable filtered drinking water. There’s a small splashback beside the sink at the bench-end that serves double duty stopping water splashing onto the bed as well as visually and mentally delineating the cooking and sleeping areas. Three drawers below the sink and one beneath the oven provide good storage space along with overhead cupboards between the bedroom and cab.
As also stated earlier the two-door Dometic 175 L fridge freezer sits in a tall unit to the right of the entry door, opposite the sink. Above it is a thin open shelf, above which is another piece of laminated benchtop that's home to the TV/DVD on a very sturdy swivel mount. The fridge appears to be identical to the one we recently used in the A’van Ovation; a three-way (12/240v/LPG) unit requiring manual switching between power sources, which in a vehicle of this price isn’t going to impress many customers, I’m thinking. Either a compressor fridge (as specified for the Integrity range on the Paradise website) or a three-way unit with auto switching is more suitable. The microwave’s position is interesting, to the left of the fridge and recessed into the wall at perfect height for a normal person to use. How often have Malcolm and I railed against microwaves mounted so high as to make their use by the average person next to impossible? It's even externally vented – how often do you see that?
The Integrity SL's bedroom is really just an extension of the lounge/kitchen area. The queen sized east-west island bed has its head in the slide-out and good walk-around room. There's a small bolster piece that drops in at the head, which is ideal for taller occupants – or those who simply like a long lie-in (sorry). The mattress proved quite comfortable although it sits on a solid board and a slat base would be a worthwhile upgrade to consider.
If I had reservations at the beginning about the bedroom being too open and exposed to the living area, it had an unexpected reverse benefit. After I’d made the morning cups of tea and returned to bed we’d sit up for a while (it’s easy despite the window behind), then Mrs iM would get the bowls of cereal ready and we’d also have breakfast in bed. Being so close to the kitchen it was a ‘snack’ (no pun intended) to just pass them across, as was chatting with her while she was preparing them. We also found the wide bedside shelves with deep drawers below very useful, but lamented the lack of charging points for our i-devices.
Another clue to the Integrity SL’s Queensland origins is the provision of a rooftop Truma Aventa air conditioning/heater but no diesel-fired space heater, except as an option. The Aventa is a good air-conditioner that even has a sleep function mode for quiet night time operation when cooling (and a night light), but of course requires mains power or a generator. Power considerations aside, heating doesn't have the quiet nighttime mode and if you're free camping there's no substitute for a diesel heater. To not have one standard in a motorhome of this price seems quite an omission.
No Compromise Bathroom
“At last I've found the no compromise bathroom!” Mrs iMotorhome declared on the first evening. A Paradise Motor Homes’ design signature, the full width bathroom proved one of the highlights of living with the integrity SL. It’s separated from the bedroom by a large sliding door, which on the bedroom side is covered by a shatterproof acrylic mirror that adds an extra feeling of spaciousness to the whole vehicle when closed. The bathroom features a separate shower cubicle in the driver’s-side corner, a central toilet, and a hand basin, bench and vanity unit in the kerb-side corner.
The shower is domestic sized and has a sliding opaque roller door that provides unimpeded shower access when open. A height-adjustable chrome finished shower with removable hand-held nozzle has a real quality feel, while high in the rear corner away from the door is a chrome finished bulk dispenser with three outlets for bath gel, shampoo and conditioner. It’s probably something a lot of people won’t use, but the small moulded-in ledge for holding a cake of soap is. Ditto the fold-out clothes rack. There’s only a single, central drain hole but it does drain well, and once showered there’s room to dry off inside the cubicle if you want to.
I’m sure the shower is as big as ours at home and, as we were plugged into mains water and drainage, for the first time ever in a motorhome I stood under the shower one evening until the hot water ran out, which took about seven minutes. That’s not bad considering the Truma electric or gas hot water system is just 14 L capacity and I only had it on the 60º C setting, not 70º C.
The toilet is a Dometic SOG unit that is chemical free and uses a small fan to draw away odours whenever the slide-valve is opened to empty the bowl. It’s a terrific system that not only removes the need for expensive chemicals (and their potential long-term effects), it removes the chemical toilet smell from the vehicle and is one less thing to attend to when emptying the toilet cassette.
The bathroom vanity bench, with its high-set ceramic basin and chrome flick-mixer tap, is spacious and user friendly. I shaved twice during our travels – a record – simply because the bowl was big, the bench spacious and the mirrors on the two shaving cabinet doors so large they made the whole process a pleasure. There’s a reversible fan hatch between the shower and loo for fast ventilation or extra cooling, a rear window for light and fresh air, and an LED ceiling light for nighttime illumination. There are also three drawers below the bench, plus the test vehicle had an optional 3 kg front loading washing machine. All-in-all it’s a very well equipped and genuinely spacious bathroom that requires no getting used to and makes most others look tiny/cramped/tricky/bothersome.
What We Think!
It’s been a decade or more since we’d last slept in a Paradise Motor Home, in another RV journalism life and when Paradise was a far younger company. Since then we have all matured, yet the basics of the Paradise design remain largely unchanged – proof of what a sound and basically timeless concept it is.
I was expecting good things of this extended touring test, but time had dulled my memories and I was regularly surprised and impressed by so many aspects of the Integrity SL’s design and construction. Paradise builds to an almost industrial strength standard – and it shows.
“There is nothing tricky or fiddly with the way everything works in this motorhome. It’s honest, straight forward and functional, and feels like it was made to last a lifetime.” That’s how Mrs iMotorhome summed it up and I’m inclined to agree. It’s also stylish, comfortable, practical and just plain nice/fun to live with. It’s not prefect – at least based on our personal preferences – but the few flaws we picked are minor and readily rectified. It’s also not cheap, but like all things of quality you get what you pay for – and in this case you get a lot back when it’s time to trade up or out.
If you’re looking for an quality motorhome that reflects your values of style and substance you need to take a close look at the Integrity SL, and indeed the whole Paradise Motor Homes’ range. There are so many model variations you will likely be surprised by what you find.
We started at the Adelaide Show stand and delivered back to the Gold Coast factory. The only difficult part was handing back the keys. That’s not always the case, but this time we certainly weren’t ready to go home. We even considered just keeping on going. It’s an intoxicating idea you know – being lost in Paradise. Maybe next time?
- Open plan living
- Quality inclusions
- Construction strength
- Excellent lounge/dinette
- Spacious bathroom
- Standard solar
- Cavernous storage
- General liveability
- Iveco’s towing capacity
- Cab suspension seats
- Electric handbrake
- Long options list
- Some design features
Paradise in Hell…
I shouldn’t have been surprised the Integrity SL felt so solid, given that I witnessed firsthand the week-long torture testing Paradise put its new Free Time model through on the Australian Automotive Research Centre’s purpose-built test track in Victoria, almost exactly a year ago. It featured in issue 45 on 5 April 2014 and in case you missed it, or want to refresh your memory, you can download it and read my report by clicking HERE.
Note: Following our comments upon returning the vehicle Paradise has since confirmed it has identified a number of road noise sources and is reengineering them to reduce ambient sound levels.
Click HERE to visit the Paradise Motor Homes website
Click below to download a PDF of the full test, including specifications, photos and contact details.
Paradise Integrity SL (2615 KB)